The Unlettered Prophet
Author : An Article by the Secretary General Dr. Ahmad Al-Hassanat
Date Added : 26-09-2023


The Unlettered Prophet


Allah, the Exalted, elevated the mention of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), purified him, praised his qualities, manners, character, and revealed some of the secrets of his beauty and perfection in many places in His Noble Book. No matter how much we want to speak about our Prophet, words, pens, and expressions fall short. Allah's statement to him suffices as an honor: " And raised high the esteem (in which) thou (art held)?." {Ash-Sharh, 4}. So, no matter how eloquent the words may be, the eloquence of words and phrases is inadequate to fully describe his noble attributes, peace and blessings be upon him, and to express them, keeping in mind the saying of the poet:


I attempted to describe the Beloved with some words, But the heart found from the Quran the answer.

I found that my words couldn't even convey a particle Of the tenfold divine bestowals.

How can my words describe the presence of the one Whose praise has consumed every tongue?

After what came in the Book, what value remains For praising a human being?


So, I asked my Lord for steadfastness in that which He has blessed me with and sincerity in my faith.

As my heart revealed the secret of my attachment To the Beloved, filling my soul with that paradise.

I live in the remembrance of the Beloved, and it is A source of constant joy throughout my life.

I hope, in the end, to behold His face And to gain His approval in the final abode.


Indeed, Allah Almighty has described our beloved Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) with many qualities. Some scholars have even said that one-third of the Quran is about the Prophet (PBUH). Today, I would like to discuss one of these attributes, which, on the surface, may seem like a deficiency but, in reality, is a description of his greatness and majesty. It's the attribute of being "Ummi" or "Unlettered."

Allah Almighty describes the Prophet (PBUH) as "An-Nabiyyu Al-Ummiyyu" in the Quran, which translates to "the unlettered prophet." This might initially appear as a deficiency because being unlettered implies not reading or writing, which is a form of honor and knowledge. However, if we contemplate this attribute in the context of the Prophet (PBUH), we realize it signifies a miraculous aspect of his perfection.


This attribute underscores the fact that the Prophet's (PBUH) knowledge and perfection were inherent to him, not acquired through conventional education or training. It emphasizes that his knowledge and completeness were intrinsic to his being, not reliant on external factors like reading or writing. Moreover, this description is also a direct reference to the prophecies about the unlettered prophet in previous divine scriptures.


In the book "Lata'if al-Isharat" by al-Qushayri, it is mentioned: "He (the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) manifested the honor of being described as 'An-Nabiyyu Al-Ummiyyu,' meaning that none of his virtues, knowledge, or the detailing of his religious laws came from himself or through his own learning and effort. Instead, everything that appeared in him was bestowed upon him by the Almighty. He was unlettered, not a reader of books, and he did not follow the ways of those who came before him."


Imam Al-Razi mentioned, "His being unlettered, according to this interpretation, was one of his miracles, and its explanation has several aspects:


Firstly, it implies that he (peace be upon him) would recite the Book of Allah, Mighty and Sublime, to them consecutively without changing any words. An Arab orator, when he delivers a sermon and then repeats it, he usually increases or decreases it slightly. But, with the Prophet (peace be upon him), he would recite the Quranic text repeatedly, and there was no increase or decrease in it.

Secondly, if he had been skilled in calligraphy and recitation, people might have accused him of having learned from the books of previous nations and acquired this knowledge through reading. However, when he presented this great Quran, which encompasses vast knowledge, without having learned or read anything, it became evident that it was a miracle.


Thirdly, learning calligraphy is a relatively easy task. Even people with little intelligence and insight can learn to write. So, his unlettered status points to a significant deficiency in understanding. However, Allah, the Most High, endowed him with the knowledge of both former and later generations, giving him insights that no human had ever reached. Despite having this extraordinary mental capacity, he was made unlettered in the specific skill of writing, something that people with much less intellectual capacity could easily learn. This combination of attributes defies natural expectations and is a characteristic of miracles."


Indeed, this description is a testament to the perfection of the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) and one of his noble miracles. Allah, the Most High, says in the Quran: "It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom, although they were before in clear error." {Al-Jumu'ah, 2}.


The words of Imam Al-Busiri beautifully capture the significance of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) being unlettered. He describes the Prophet's knowledge as a miraculous aspect during the era of ignorance (pre-Islamic times) and a source of education for orphans. Indeed, the eloquence and miraculous nature of the Quran are highlighted by the fact that its Messenger was unlettered.


Furthermore, it's remarkable how Allah, in His wisdom, chose this unlettered Prophet to be a teacher for the entire nation and for scholars. Despite not having formal education, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was bestowed with profound knowledge by Allah. His teachings, recorded in the form of writings, books, and treatises, are but a drop in the vast ocean of knowledge he possessed. These teachings cover a wide array of subjects and continue to be a source of inspiration and guidance for people around the world.


Allah mentions in the Quran: "It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom, although they were before in clear error." {Al-Jumu'ah, 2}. This verse underscores the unique role of the unlettered Prophet in teaching and guiding his people.




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Summarized Fatawaa

What is the ruling on swearing a false oath by the Holy Quran?

Swearing a false oath by the Holy Quran dips the oath-taker in Hellfire, and one who had done so should turn to Allah in repentance, seek His forgiveness, give back rights to whom they belong, and pay the oath expiation.

Is my son who was breastfed one filling time by my aunt considered a brother to her children?

The baby who was suckled five sporadic times by a woman is considered a son/daughter of hers.

Is Zakah due on the orphan`s money?

Yes, Zakah is due on the money of the orphan.

I have conducted my marriage contract at a Sharia court; however, one day I was talking to my fiancée over the phone and she got on my nerves leading me to utter one divorce. This is knowing that I can`t tell my her father because he is very strict and will not accept that at all. What is the best course of action that I should pursue in this situation?

All perfect praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.
When divorce takes place before the consummation of marriage it is called Ba`in divorce (Minor irrevocable divoce), so your wife is considered unlawful to you until you conduct a new marriage contract and pay Mahr , and you should visit the Iftaa` Department in order to know the correct Fatwa. And Allah The Almighty Knows Best.

[1] Minor irrevocable divorce [Ar.Talaq al-Ba'in Binona Soghra]: It is a divorce where the husband cannot take his ex-wife back unless with her consent, conducting a new marriage contract and paying new bridal wealth [Ar.Mahr].

[1] In Islam, a Mahr is the obligation, in the form of money or possessions paid by the groom, to the bride at the time of Islamic marriage. While the Mahr is often money, it can also be anything agreed upon by the bride such as jewelry, home goods, furniture, a dwelling or some land.